Vocal opposition can drown out money
Recently, there have been several letters published here emphasizing potential revenue the wind industry could provide local school districts, particularly Seneca East. I appreciate the intent expressed in those letters. But in response, I would like to make clear that opposition to the wind industry does not equal opposition to local education. Indeed, many people who have yellow No Wind Turbine signs in their front yards are the same people who helped Seneca East pass its last levy by an almost 70-percent margin.
Any discussion of the wind industry’s potential impact on education locally must acknowledge that in November, the Seneca East Board of Education voted unanimously to intervene before the Ohio Power Siting Board in the Seneca Wind project, siting its “interest in protecting its students and staff from potentially adverse impacts on their health, safety and welfare while at school or participating in school services or programs.” The intervention also expresses concern about Seneca Wind’s “potential impacts on residential, commercial and industrial development and property values within the District.” More recently, Bellevue City Schools withdrew its support of the Apex-owned Republic Wind and Emerson Creek Wind projects.
At the June 5 Seneca County commissioners meeting, I read a letter by Jane Harper, a former commissioner from Tipton County, Indiana, who now regrets her role in allowing the wind industry to enter her county. “You can’t lose something you never had,” Harper points out, “so you are not ‘losing’ the supposed ‘windfall’ of money that the project purportedly brings in. What you will lose however, cannot be measured in dollars. You will lose the rural landscape as you know it and you will lose the closeness of ‘community spirit’ because people will hate each other over this and the presence of the towers will always be a constant reminder of the rift … thus, the wounds will never heal.” These are words from someone who has first-hand experience of the wind industry’s impact on her community.
Funding for education is a worthwhile cause, but for schools, there is one thing even more critical than money — and that is students. Six weeks after I read the letter mentioned above to our county commissioners, the Kokomo Tribune ran an article with the headline “Slumping enrollment threatens funding at Tipton schools.” This is not an isolated occurrence. In fact, according to a non-profit group from Clinton County, Indiana, every school district in that state where wind farms were constructed has had a decrease in school population. While school enrollment in rural districts is obviously affected by many factors beyond the presence (or absence) of industrial wind turbines, I think these statistics show the Seneca East Board of Education is wise to be concerned about Seneca Wind’s potential impact on the district.
Although many local wind leases were signed years before the rest of the community was made aware of the Seneca Wind project, it is now apparent the vast majority of residents who would live within Seneca Wind are opposed to its construction. Even the youngest of children cannot fail to notice the sea of yellow signs that cover so much of this county. If the wind industry continues using school funding to justify overriding the community’s vehement objections (including the local board of education’s unanimous opposition) I fear the message to our youth is that it is OK to ignore your neighbors’ concerns as long as you receive enough money while you are doing it.
It is my hope our children instead will learn other lessons from the wind industry’s foray into Seneca County. Rather than holding up money as the “end all, be all,” I hope the current debate teaches that neighbors and friends can share good intentions even when they find themselves on opposite sides of an issue. And when the wind industry finally leaves Seneca County, I pray our children will look back on this chapter and recognize there is value in each individual voice. Joined together, I am confident those voices will ultimately prove that neighbors who are smart, engaging and passionate in their advocacy of their families and their community can create a chorus more powerful than any amount of money.
Seneca County Board of Elections data, accessible online at seneca.ohioboe.com
“Memorandum in Support of Petition for Leave to Intervene of the Board of Education of Seneca East Local School District,” filed with the Ohio Power Siting Board Nov. 15, 2018, in Case No. 18-0488-EL–BGN
Full text of Harper’s letter is available at edgarcountywatchdogs.com/
“Slumping Enrollment Threatens Funding at Tipton Schools” July 28, 2018, accessible online at
“The Truth About Education and Industrial Wind” by Responsible Harvest of Clinton County Inc., accessible
online at www.responsibleharvest.com